Darknets as protectors of online freedom of expression and privacy?

Research (Diagram of a Darknet: Exploring the Characteristics of an Anonymous Space Online)  using the example of Freenet (an anonymous peer-to-peer network) analysed and reported in Far beyond crime-ridden depravity, darknets are key strongholds of freedom of expression online  shows that, although the darknet includes depravity, illegal, and terrible content, it is also important for online freedom of expression and privacy, according to authors Roderick S. Graham, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Brian Pitman, Instructor in Criminology and Sociology, Old Dominion University. They state that Freenet (with the implication that some other darknet sites may be similar) is based on a hacker ethic, and espouses ideals such as: 

  • ‘Access to information should be free;
  • Technology can, and should, improve people’s lives;
  • Bureaucracy and authority are not to be trusted;
  • A resistance to conventional and mainstream lifestyles’.

They note that ‘Other research suggests that the presence of child pornography is not a darknet or Freenet problem, but an internet problem’, and that ‘Evaluating the darknet should not stop just at the presence of illegal material, but should extend to its full content and context.’